Live Free: Stories of Fresno

We are happy to announce our support for Faith In the Valley’s LIFT (Love Intercepting Fear Through) Power, Faith and Community Forum that will be held Saturday September 10th from 11:00-2:00 PM at the Fresno Convention Center. In the days leading up to that event, we will publish stories that uplift the voices of our community as a show of solidarity with the mission of the forum: to extend racial, economic and environmental dignity for all.

We believe that lifting up the voices of those without platforms has always been a driving force of change. We think storytelling encourages mutual understanding, empathy and enlightenment. And right now the Central Valley needs those characteristics.

We believe that the often unheard stories must be heard in order for justice to take shape. So stay tuned to our Instagram and website for stories of injustice that are difficult to speak about, but necessary nonetheless. Incidents and moments that people have experienced at the hands of law enforcement that have left them feeling unsafe, discriminated against or otherwise mistreated by our justice system.

The stories below are all the responses to one very simple question: Do you have any instances where you’ve had a negative experience or faced injustice at the hands of police or the justice system?


Week 1
Osa Gottlieb 

I have a few, as a women of color, how can I not?

So one incident was like maybe two years ago or so? It was my day off from work and I was sick with a normal head cold, but I still had things I needed to do; i.e. laundry. I was out of detergent so I had to walk to the store and get more. It was like ten minute walk from my house. It was cold and rainy, I was sick. So I was wearing a hoodie, hood up. I went to the store, got my detergent and a snack and was walking back. I see a cruiser coming my way, but figured, whatever, right? He turns on his sirens and pulls up into the sidewalk where I was walking.

I didn’t really know what to do so I put my bags down and put my hands up. He gets out and walks over to me and starts patting me down immediately. No words exchanged yet. Then he goes, “what did you buy today?”

“Laundry detergent and cookies, sir.”

“And why are you wearing a jacket with the hood up?”

“Because…it’s raining?”

He was finished searching me but I kept my hands up because he didn’t tell me to put them down. He proceeds to check my bag that has two things in it, but is like, opening my things like I’m hiding something? Opens my Oreos and my detergent, looking at the side of the handle of detergent. I have no clue what he thinks or what he’s looking for.

Finally he goes, “do you know why I stopped you?”

“No sir.”

“You look like a suspicious character.”

I didn’t really know what to say. So I apologized.

He goes, “you should never walk with your hood up and a mysterious bag on your persons.”

My mysterious Kmart bag. With my mysterious tide detergent. And my mysterious Oreos.

Again I apologize.

“I’m going to let you off with a warning today. Don’t do it again.”

He gets back in his car, turns off his sirens and pulls away.

Another one wasn’t too long after that. Another day off, my roommates and I went to McDonalds at probably 9 o’clock because we’re garbage people. We hit the drive-thru and we’re coming home. Then we get pulled over by a cop on our street next to our house.

Two officers get out and come up to the driver window and shine their flashlight in, pointing it all four of us. Which fine, it was dark. And they begin to interrogate us.

“Where are you ladies off to tonight?”

“What did you do this evening?”

“Where’s home?”

“Why are you out after dark?”

“Why are your windows tinted?”

Finally they tell us, “the reason we stopped you is that we received report of a suspicious vehicle full of ethnics.”

For the last time, my roommate explained to them once again, “we just went to get McDonalds. Just going home, we don’t know who you’re looking for but it’s not us.”

He then asked us to step out of the vehicle. We all got out and we were searched, our car was searched. Our bag of food was searched.

Finally they ‘cleared’ us. They instructed us to go home but added, “we’re going to follow you to make sure.”

We didn’t say anything to that. We grabbed our food and drinks that they had placed on the hood of our car and just walked into our house since we were parked right next to it. They waited outside for probably thirty minutes I would say before driving away.

Week 2
Miguel Bibanco

I’ve had a few negative experiences with police. One that happened not too long ago left a particularly bad taste in my mouth.

A couple of months ago, Fresno was chosen as a stop for presidential hopeful and GOP sweetheart Donald Trump.

In the spirit of civic engagement I decided to say hello to our potential future president and let him know exactly how I felt about his various views.

Reciting such classics as “Dump Trump” and “racism has got to go,” I joined a crowd of protestors exercising our right to freedom of speech.

I’ve attended several rallies and protests before, but there was something unique about that particular protest.

The number of police there was larger than I had anticipated and served to increase tension amongst the protestors.

One particular protester was visibly upset by the shoving and pushing around some police felt was necessary to do without any proper warning.

“You can’t just do that! “You can’t just shove someone for no reason,” the protestor vocalized. The officer responded by shoving the protestor so forcibly that he almost fell over.

This didn’t seem right so I spoke out.

I said, “You can’t do that! That’s not right! He wasn’t touching you. He wasn’t threatening you. Are you just going to hit people that aren’t even touching you?”

In a swift response that was both unexpected and ironic I felt the officer jab me in the gut with his baton. I had the wind knocked out of me.

Taking a minute to compose myself while I caught my breath I looked at the officer’s face and it seemed to say, “Maybe what I did was wrong; maybe I regret it, but it’s too late now and I’m not backing down.”

I left for home soon after.


Week 3
Jonathan Bibanco

This was like a year or two back. I was riding by the school and the cops… I don’t know why, they didn’t like me for some reason. I was just driving by and for some reason he was already going after me. So, I’m already crossing the street going and then I see him following. I think, “Man, I’m not even doing anything.” I was going home actually and I’m by McKenzie. He turns around comes over and then just stops me. 

“Uh… what’s going on?”

“Is this you?” (displaying a picture of JB on his phone)
“Yeah, you’re a threat to the school.”

I hadn’t gone to that school in 4-5 months. I was stopped for no reason. That stop had no reason and that no reason became a reason to get me in trouble. I’m just gonna say that was harassment, he was basically looking for a reason to get me in trouble. Trying to find weed or whatever. Eventually he let me go but that wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right.

I’ve also been picked up by the cops on Huntington because they were walking down the wrong road. Huntington block has two roads, one that goes in one direction and the other in the opposite direction. All I said was, “You guys are going down the wrong road.” I was like what the fuck these guys are going down the wrong road but they were driving away already. So I’m walking somewhere else at this point. I’m around Kerckhoff. I’m about to cross the street and this cop car pulls up.

“So what were you saying?”

“Man, I was just saying you guys are driving down the wrong road because if one of us was doing that *boom* you guys would have got your ticket for the day.”

They kinda got mad and searched me. They found a little bit of shake on me. At this point I just want to get home so I say.

“Can you just write me my citation?”

“Yeah, we’ll write it for you.”

Then they take me all the way downtown and I ask again, “Can I get my citation?”

“Yeah, we just wanted you to walk from over here to your house.”

“You’re a fucking bitch,” I told him straight up.

Then they wrote me my citation and I asked for my backpack back.

They had like 50 backpacks. When I asked them about it they said, “Yeah, dumbass motherfuckers forget to ask for their backpacks.”

“Well, shit… not me.” I took mine and left but they pretty much took me downtown just to make my ass walk.